blogs and dilettantism

February 13, 2007

The BB (British Blogosphere) is talking, for a change, about blogs and democracy. Oliver Kamm questions one of the founding assumptions of blogging: that it is good for democracy. He claims that actually blogging “impoverishes our democracy” because it “narrows the range of opinion presented in the public square” (normblog and Iain Dale, for the record, disagree). It might indeed be true that blogs narrow the diversity and quality of the democratic conversation; and even that they polarize opinions. But even if we concede all that, it does not follow that blogs impoverish our democracy. And this is because they do something else for our democracy; something which is, arguably, far more important than the diversity and quality of the debate: blogs promote and increase participation in the political debate. And in countries like this one with hardly half of the electorate showing up at polling stations, that is a priority. In fact, I happen to think that dilettantism, which I guess is the reason why blogs are supposed to narrow the debate, is a necessary condition to blogs enriching our democracy. And it might be no coincidence that those arguing against the democratic value of blogs happen to be somewhat professional bloggers. They, if anybody, are the problem.

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5 Responses to “blogs and dilettantism”

  1. jeremiasx Says:

    Any time that voices rise from the populace to be heard…that is democracy in action.

    Free speech…free thought…and free press. Hooray!

    I’m SURE there are entities that would like to see blogs done away with and a return to 3 networks of media on TV and a more solid control over all print media.

    Let’s not let them have their day…NEVER AGAIN.

  2. yucca Says:

    im not sure whether oliver kamm is one of those entities, though. otherwise im with you!

  3. hairybeast Says:

    yucca and jeremia,

    Agreed. The BBC and their ilk were probably not happy to share access to the public gestalt with us “common folk”, but they’re stuck with us.

    Here is the ‘money quote” from that post:

    “If millions of people are mostly listening to Rush Limbaugh and others are listening to Fox News, problems will arise if millions of other people are mostly or only listening to people and stations with an altogether different point of view”

    Ahhh – the problem is not that people are watching Keith Olbermann or listening to Air America (which they are not) or reading the New York Times, no the problem is RIGHT WING news, radio and now blogs. There are two elephants in the living room here: conservatives are no longer forced to get all their news from liberal venues because the media is no longer the sole playground of The Elites. The Beast hesitates to call it subtext because it’s almost too blatant for that.

    Those who posture themselves as the champions of the common man sure don’t seem to have much respect for him.

  4. yucca Says:

    Beast,

    I agree with you that the passage suggests a bias against right wing news; but the point thats is being made is about polarization, and it does therefore apply to olbermann too.

    i very much like your final sentence!


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